One day after the June 18 grand opening of the American Freestyle Motocross Association training facility at Pala Raceway, Brian Deegan, founder of the AFMXA, will make his stock car racing debut in the NTS Motorsports car at his home track in Irwindale, Calif.
Though he's no stranger to racing four wheels -- he's currently defending his Pro Lite Unlimited title in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series -- this will be the first time he's taken his racing to this level.
We caught up with Deegan from his home in Temecula, Calif., to find out what prompted the 35-year-old to become a rookie again.
ESPN: Why NASCAR?
Deegan: I've always followed NASCAR, and I have friends in the sport. I never thought I would have the opportunity to race in NASCAR, but in life, you never know. Things change. I have to start in the lower ranks and race super-late models, and I will do that for however long it takes. But I will be up there racing the Cup within a couple of years.
Two years to the Sprint Cup Series. Any other goals?
I try to set realistic goals and right now, just to make it to the Cup Series is my first goal. I know that will take a lot of hard work and a lot of risk. I'd like to be in the Truck Series by next year. Then it will be to win a race. And after that, to go for a championship.
What will be the toughest adjustment?
In motocross and freestyle motocross, you are in charge of your own destiny. Short-course truck racing was more of a team sport, but stock car racing is really a team effort. Your crew chief is just as important as the driver. He is calling tire changes and strategy and your team determines 75 percent of your race. A lot of your destiny is in other people's hands, and that is a big change. I've also never raced that long of a race. But I'm looking forward to a new challenge.
What about that long of a season?
In freestyle, you only compete in two or three events a year, and you ride with your buddies whenever you want. Part of the reason I started racing trucks was to fill up my schedule. But if I get into the Cup, that's every weekend, 32 weeks a year. And when I'm not racing, I'll still be backflipping my dirt bike. I made the decision because it's the ultimate goal for anyone in motorsports. If you make it to the Cup, you made it to the top. If I can put in five or 10 years, I will have accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in motorsports. Then I can retire and go on vacation.
Will you bring the same "Metal Mulisha General" personality with you to NASCAR?
For sure. Every sport needs new flavor and new athletes. My fans have backed me wherever I have gone and the Mulisha fans will back this move. I'll bring a young demographic to NASCAR and the sport needs that.
Why will you be successful?
I have a history of working hard, studying tapes and picking apart a sport. When I was racing motocross, I won in the L.A. Coliseum and, at one time, I beat the best of the best. I walked away from racing in the '90s, but racing is in my heart and the will to win is half the battle. In my first year in short-course truck racing, I put in the time and I won. I will make that same commitment and dedication to stockcars. I don't expect anything to be given to me.
NASCAR is not a sport known for welcoming outsiders into its ranks. Do you think your reputation for hard work will earn you the respect of your peers?
Respect comes from your style of driving, the way you respect others on and off the track. Those other drivers are the best in the world, but they put their pants on the same way I do. They are all human and they are all beatable. That is the way I see it.
Did you talk to any of your friends in the sport while you were making the decision?
I used to race mini-bikes with Clint Bowyer in Kansas and I talked to him. He explained how the ranks go and what I need to do to get there. Carl Edwards invited me to the speedway in Nebraska. I have support from within the sport. But those guys are competitive and anyone coming up into the sport is a threat to their ride. There's only so much a competitor is going to do to help you out.